SHIBATA ZESHIN 柴田是真 (1807–1891) TURTLES AND CRABS 徳若五万歳図絹本着色掛軸 Meiji era (1868–1912), circa 1880–1890
Lot 5*
SHIBATA ZESHIN 柴田是真 (1807–1891) TURTLES AND CRABS 徳若五万歳図絹本着色掛軸
Meiji era (1868–1912), circa 1880–1890
Sold for £6,250 (US$ 8,384) inc. premium

Lot Details
SHIBATA ZESHIN 柴田是真 (1807–1891) TURTLES AND CRABS 徳若五万歳図絹本着色掛軸 Meiji era (1868–1912), circa 1880–1890 SHIBATA ZESHIN 柴田是真 (1807–1891) TURTLES AND CRABS 徳若五万歳図絹本着色掛軸 Meiji era (1868–1912), circa 1880–1890
SHIBATA ZESHIN 柴田是真 (1807–1891) TURTLES AND CRABS 徳若五万歳図絹本着色掛軸
Meiji era (1868–1912), circa 1880–1890
Hanging scroll, ink and colours on silk with silk mounts and wood jikusaki, depicting five turtles stacked in descending order of size, the lower three with long 'tails' of weed, four of them with expressions of astonishment or fear, bound with a silk cord tied in a bow with two large tassels, two crabs trying to undo the bow, one on top and the other pulling on one of the tassels; signed Zeshin 是真; seal: Tairyūkyo 對柳居

Overall: 166.5 × 43.8 cm (65½ × 17¼ in.)
Image: 86.4 × 26.9 cm (34 × 10 5/8 in.)


With modern fitted wood box and cardboard outer storage box (3)

Footnotes

  • For a very similar painting by Zeshin and an inrō with the same motif, see Gōke 1981, cat. nos. 80–81, 248. This arresting subject involves a pun on the words toku wa kani 解くは蟹 (the crab unties), which can also be written Tokuwaka ni 徳若に with the five (go 五) turtles representing the first syllable of the following phrase Gomanzai 御万歳 (Long life!), from the popular New-Year chant Tokuwaka ni gomanzai to kokudo mo osamarite 徳若に御万歳と国土も治まりて (Long life to all and peace throughout the land!). The same design is seen on inrō and other pieces; a related image of a tortoise or turtle suspended from a rope also features in a woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige, Fukagawa Mannenbashi 深川萬年橋 (published in 1857), number 51 in the series Meisho Edo hyakkei 名所江戸百景 (100 Fine Views of Edo). There, however, the creature is offered for sale to visitors wishing to set it free as a means of securing good fortune. Zeshin, a lover of Edo's festival traditions, might have had this custom in mind as well the Tokuwaka pun.
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